Meet your 2022 UCP leadership candidates
None of these people should be anywhere near the levers of power
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is resigning, eventually, after he received a dismal 51.4% in his leadership review earlier this year. But first, there’s a leadership race to replace him as leader of the United Conservative Party he forged from the ashes of the PC and Wildrose parties.
I’ve decided to compile a list of all the candidates in the running to replace him, none of whom should be anywhere near the levers of power.
The winner will, of course, become the next premier of Alberta and, barring some major unforeseen scandal, will run against NDP leader and former premier Rachel Notley in next year’s election.
I will be updating this list if further candidacies are announced before the July 20 deadline. The leadership vote, which will be via ranked ballot, is Oct. 6.
But first, I’m fundraising to attend the Conservative Party’s Stampede BBQ on July 9, where all the federal leadership candidates and at least some of the UCP’s will be in attendance. I’m trying to get 30 new paid subscribers by the day of the event to afford the $165 ticket. I’m just seven subscribers short of that goal, so if you appreciate my work please consider a subscription for as little as $5 a month.
Where does one start with Smith? Two years after losing the 2012 election to Alison Redford and the PCs, the former Wildrose leader took a literal ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach, crossing the floor with more than half her caucus to join the PC government of then-premier Jim Prentice. However, she would never have the opportunity to run for Prentice’s Tories, as she lost her own nomination bid six months later for the riding of Highwood.
After her political career ended temporarily, Smith became a radio host on Corus, leaving in January 2021 to make some vague statement about “cancel culture” — likely related in part to criticism she received over a since-deleted March 2020 tweet claiming “hydroxychloroquine cures 100 per cent of coronavirus patients within six days of treatment.”
Since then, she’s accused Alberta Health Services and College of Physicians and Surgeons of suppressing the truth about ivermectin as a COVID treatment and in a whopper of a Calgary Herald column compared mandatory vaccination to Nazi experiments on Jewish people during the Holocaust.
In a nod to separatists, Smith said if elected she will immediately pass legislation allowing Alberta to disregard federal laws, and begin the process of creating a provincial police force and tax collection agency.
Jean stuck around the Wildrose after Smith crossed the floor, becoming its final leader before merging with the PCs. While Leader of Opposition, he once joked about beating up Notley.
He unsuccessfully ran against Kenney in the inaugural UCP leadership race, which was marred by allegations of fraud on Kenney’s part and is still under RCMP investigation. Like Smith, Jean temporarily retired from politics after facing humiliating defeat.
With discontent brewing against Kenney for his handling of the COVID pandemic from the party’s far-right, Jean decided the time was right to re-enter politics, running in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche by-election on an explicit platform of removing Kenney from power, which he won in a landslide.
During the campaign, he went full conspiracist, railing against “globalists,” the World Economic Forum and the Great Reset. During the nomination race, he described Kenney’s favoured candidate Joshua Gogo as a “Nigerian economist who lives in Fort McMurray.” Ensuing allegations of racism evidently didn’t hurt his campaign.
Jean has continued along this batshit trajectory during his leadership campaign, claiming that just like COVID, vaccines kill.
Toews, who represents Grande Prairie-Wapiti in the legislature, is one of four former cabinet ministers who had to resign their posts to run, having served as Kenney’s finance minister for the past three years. In terms of caucus endorsements, Toews leads the pack with 23.
He’s presenting himself as the unity candidate who is simultaneously an insider and outsider, touting his rural Alberta credentials while criticizing Kenney’s divisiveness towards anti-vaxxers. As Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid observes, Toews “never disagreed publicly with Kenney before May 18,” when the premier announced his resignation.
As finance minister, Toews presided over the disappearance of $4 billion in COVID relief spending, lost $1.3 billion betting on the ill-fated Keystone XL pipeline getting built and cut the corporate tax rate to 8% from 12%, costing the province billions in foregone revenue.
Toews is also a social conservative, sitting on the board of the Peace River Bible Institute, which as reported by PressProgress, forbids its students from engaging in LGBTQ “sexual activity” and prohibits “rituals that are associated with demonic activity,” such as “witchcraft, sorcery [and] spell casting.”
Aheer, who represents the riding of Chestermere-Strathmore just outside Calgary, served as minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women before she was booted from cabinet in May 2020. This was a result of her criticizing Kenney’s COVID hypocrisy in response to leaked photos of him, cabinet members and staffers neglecting COVID distancing rules.
At her official campaign launch, she attempted to portray herself as an outsider, despite her time in cabinet, saying she’s not backed by the “the Harper machines or the Kenney machines” and that she believes Albertans will “defeat the machines.”
She criticized the government’s decision to de-index Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped from inflation, which she said she would reverse, and suggested there might be better ways to shill for the province’s oil and gas sector than the farcical energy war room.
Schulz served as Alberta’s minister of children’s services and is the MLA for Calgary-Shaw.
Under Schulz, the government cut the maximum eligibility age of supports for children on welfare to 22 from 24, a move she defended because the people who were getting cut off were moved to other support systems, such as AISH, which was also cut.
In an exclusive interview with the Western Standard promoting her leadership candidacy, Schulz promised to “make some difficult decisions.”
Schulz also vowed to continue Kenney’s bickering with the federal government while touting the $4-billion childcare agreement she reached with the feds as a unique “Made in Alberta” plan.
Despite her time in Kenney’s cabinet, Schulz claims she “was not part of his inner circle.”
She previously served as a staffer to former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, who has endorsed her. After CTV News reported Wall had exchanged texts and spoke on the phone with a “Freedom Convoy” organizer in jail on various charges, Schulz said what a stand up guy Wall is in a likely-scheduled tweet.
She’s also endorsed by MLAs Brad Rutherford, Jeremy Nixon and Michaela Frey, as well as Health Minister Jason Copping, Fort McMurray-Cold Lake MP Laila Goodridge and Calgary Midnapore MP Stephanie Kusie.
Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney served as minister of transportation before announcing her candidacy for UCP leadership. Prior to transportation, she served as minister of community and social services, where she presided over the de-indexing of AISH payments, which she argued was needed to reduce the debt and ensure the “survival” of the oil and gas industry. Now, Sawnhey says she wants to reverse that decision.
She kicked off her campaign by calling for a public inquiry into Kenney’s handling of the pandemic. In case anyone was wondering what angle Sawhney’s inquiry will take, she recruited anti-lockdown MLA Angela Pitt to co-chair her campaign.
Like Aheer, she criticized Kenney for flouting COVID restrictions, but unlike Aheer wasn’t reprimanded for it.
Sawhney has proposed a monthly $75 cheque to low-income Albertans to help them deal with the impact of inflation, which would increase to $90 for rural Albertans.
Loewen, the MLA for Central Peace-Notley, sits as an independent after penning an open letter calling for Kenney to step down in part due to the premier’s bare minimum pandemic mitigation measures. “We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man,” the letter said. “And, while you promoted unity, it is clear that unity is falling apart.”
He also criticized Kenney’s “weak-kneed” approach to relations with the federal government, negotiations with the province’s doctors and efforts to open up the Rockies to coal mining.
At his campaign kickoff, Loewen said he was running to represent “blue truck Albertans,” a reference to Kenney’s blue pickup truck he drove through Alberta while campaigning to merge the PCs and Wildrose parties.
Bonus fake candidate: Raj Sherman
Sherman, a former PC MLA and Alberta Liberal leader, isn’t actually running for UCP leadership. The party requires leadership candidates to have been members for at least six months, which Sherman doesn’t meet. His attempt to get a waiver for that requirement failed.
An emergency room physician, Sherman said healthcare would be the focus of his non-candidacy. In his non-leadership campaign announcement, he proclaimed himself a “Paul Martin and Lawrence Decore Liberal” and a “premier Lougheed and Ed Stelmach Conservative.”
Edited by Stephen Magusiak